“Negroes In The News” – Black astronaut gets honored, & The Hip-Hop Juggler Gets his shine!

Let’s try something different.

As further proof that we are constantly learning and growing, I recently discovered the story of Ronald McNair, the second African-American astronaut ever in space.

It just so happens that the 25th anniversary of the tragic 1986 Challenger shuttle crash on which Ronald was a crew member has just passed, and to commemorate this, the building of a pivotal library from McNair’s youth in his South Carolina hometown has been named for him.

This is one of the 2 reasons that McNair has been surfacing in the news recently. I came across him from an article that I read in a local NYC newspaper focusing on the park that bears his name in Brooklyn and how his story has faded into relative obscurity. Whole generations (most likely beginning with mine) have passed, totally oblivious to his presence in the pages of astronomy and Black History. Since this is Negroes In The News, and Black History Month, I thought this was the perfect time to shine some light on him as well as someone in the present day making strides. 

These are the stories seldom told in the midst of the gross cliche and rhetoric that this month tends to bring. I prefer to focus on the modern Black History; that is, the history which is being made every day by our forward thinkers and doers. As a child, I was always fascinated by the existence of Black astronauts. Not fully understanding what it is exactly that astronauts do (and I STILL don’t have the faintest), but for a young kid being bombarded with the sci-fi and enamoring world of comic, cartoon and television imagery, THESE were the closest thing to superheroes in real life. Before rappers rose in popularity to become the ultimate larger-than-life figures. I couldn’t believe there were actually Black men and women building and riding in shuttles. I didn’t have time to fall into the fantasies of this however, because often in school, these folk were just footnotes in our Black History studies, along with all of the inventors, surgeons and those who ventured in the fields of hard science. Sadly, they were lost and overshadowed between the pages upon pages emphasizing on the less educated but more celebrated preachers, athletes and musicians.

And McNair’s resume is amazing! Comparable to any scientific peer of any race, while undeniably boasting a sense of Black pride. His progression in his personal life can be used to exemplify the heights to which African-Americans should aspire to as a whole. He reached academic and career pinnacles, and can even say that he attended an HBCU. He was a Black Belt in the field of martial arts and skilled with the saxophone – even going so far as to playing while in orbit. There’s also a school named after him. I won’t go on and on about his credentials, I’ll just point you toward this piece from the NPR that brilliantly weaves an anecdote shared by McNair’s brother into it’s write-up on him. Check it out and learn something. It’s shorter than this whole post! http://www.npr.org/2011/01/28/133275198/astronauts-brother-recalls-a-man-who-dreamed-big

Moving on to the second subject of our segment, I was ecstatic and super motivated and proud when I saw that my homegirl Starrene “GangStarrGirl” Rhett posted this article that features her best friend, Paris Goudie in Black Enterprise magazine.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/2011/02/10/financial-worker-quits-job-to-juggle/

I feel kinda wack because I know Paris well via Starrene, and have yet to catch his act. “The Hip-Hop Juggler”, as his performance title reads, is a true grinder. He found his way in a niche market and career field that is rarely thought of and under-appreciated, especially by people of color. His success goes against the very grain and his drive is inspiring to anyone, as he is one of those people who have truly followed their passion and stuck to what he does best!

I walk around with his card in my wallet and I can honestly say that he’s a genuinely honest and humble dude. Props to Black Enterprise for showcasing this young man and his choice to take the road less traveled. In more ways than one. I see you P!

This is Black History in the making…

Hot 16…Or More…”BE RIGHT”

The homie Khadj told me yesterday that my rapping lacks aggression and that I sound too relaxed on the mic. Almost to a point where the listener may not care enough about what they’re hearing to delve any deeper into my material or personality. Well it’s obvious that he hasn’t seen the video for “Be Right”. 

At first, I was moved to write him off and tell him that he’s making loose judgements off of a loose listen to my first mixtape, The Crazy 8’s – which is full of rhymes that I put together in 2003. That’s an 8 year old gauge. But then I remembered that The Crazy 8’s has always been the tape that I tell people to refer to first in order to get an idea of the kind of artist that I am. And then I remembered that the song “Be Right” was one the only one that I wrote in 2005/2006, and that the accompanying video was my very first ever. Khadj had remarked that after seeing my Appearance on BET‘s Rap City, he gathered that I’m a good performer who can probably convey that rawness and expressiveness better on that plane than on track. He commented how a video would also capture that. So as I had prepared this month’s Hot 16…Or More…entry at the end of January, I considered talking about the whole experience of my first video being a milestone moment for me. How It rode the wave of successful timing and momentum that I had gathered ever since that fateful airing on Rap City. How I linked up with 2 creative and hungry young videographers from my city who offered to usher me into the world of music video for free, before it even became the norm for unsigned rappers to make their own, starting both of our grinds. Now his comments have just prompted me to present this song and video as a study in delivery and performance.

As the only song on The Crazy 8’s with original production (albeit sampled), there’s a real organic quality to it. The thing that I’ve always said about me as a rapper, is that as a listener, you either like my voice, or you hate it. I’m not going to yell on track, or do that stupid snarly thing that Kanye does. There’s something not-so-smooth about my tone. It’s not velvety. It’s also not the most commanding. What I do instead, is command the words. I give them life. Never too wordy, never too empty. There’s a slickness and a youthful nuance present in how I bend certain words and emphasize, and of course, you can pick up traces of my sarcasm and wit from these things. Especially in how I set up my punchlines…Lots of movie and pop-culture references. But also, lots of allusions to historic people and events, old parables and idioms, random knowledge that only someone who deals with vocabulary regularly finds themselves doing. Basically, you can tell I was the Black kid paying attention in all those extra English classes back in school.

This kind of approach would lead some to call me “lyrical” for lack of a better word. People are quick to assign that label to anyone who has a penchant for using a lot of syllables. But as a rapper, you can say a whole lot of nothing with a lot of words. Talib Kweli can exemplify that on his less conscious songs. You don’t hear anyone but other rappers praising Scarface for being lyrical. It’s not the first word that comes to mind when people consider his slow flow and poetic prose. At the same time, no one ever calls Bone Thugs N Harmony and Busta Rhymes lyrical – and they used more syllables than most. That all stems from the fact that they are hard to decipher. Yet, if you strike that balance between being multi-syllabistic and understandable, then you’re automatically thrown in lyrical water…strapped in with peers such as Pharaohe, Black Thought, Canibus, Lupe and whoever else was a backpacker’s wet dream on the cusp of the 90’s and the new millenium.

When I was deciding how I wanted to do this song, I knew I wanted to come off as one of those lyrical dudes, but with a jabbing element to it. My brand of lyrical is rarely from an angle where I want to boggle minds. I just want to come off as hungry, and taunting with an I’m-better-than-you smirk that’s apparent between the lines. I knew this had to be and feel dynamic. I heard the beat when I used to visit J.Libre‘s crib, the producer of it, and founder of my crew – The Balance. I was visiting his recording setup there weekly, and this beat spoke to me. It’s a sample from Isaac Hayes‘ rendition of  “If Loving You Is Wrong…” I was recording what I thought was going to be my version of Jay-Z‘s …Volume 1 at the time, so I just put that beat aside for future reference. When that idea began dwindling however, I re-listened to this beat again and felt inspired to murder it. I was still unheard of. My Rap City appearance had not aired yet and I needed a credo. I also why I wanted at least 1 original song.

The beat is so triumphant sounding. The statement was waiting to be made. The words in the sample are clear; “I don’t wanna be right”.  Even my talking at the beginning and end was meaningful. As the young new guy trying to make a name for himself and coming on the scene with his brand of lyrical and cocky, I felt that was perfect! If I didn’t fit in with what was going on at the time, or if I couldn’t be categorized or if I was making tracks that went longer than the 1 minute, 16-bar format, then I didn’t want to be right. The soulfulness of it stands out from the other tracks on the mixtape, but the pace of it falls right in with them. Where “My, Name’s Malik; I’mma Blow!!!” was my introductory declaration, This track is my mission statement. The video only adds to the overall intent and feeling of it, by playing up the training/boxing visual to make it Rocky-like. Now tell me I’m too relaxed now…

 

“Be Right”

 

“I’mma keep this short man,

cause you don’t John or Lee Malvo to show you what an M-16 do from Long range.

I write just like a sniper – take your pen off the page,

ricochet off your face,

make it spin off your braids.

Until there’s really shells at the end of your cornrows…

Lookin’ like Da Brat

rhhhaacttt!!

Now look at that!

Better yet;

Bow Wow and Omarion,

No I’m not Omarion,

but you can get ‘Touched’, like the body on

a model off the show UnCut,

-but that was only for mature audiences,

so that’s Take 1 – cut!!

Now tell your bodyguard keep his gun tucked,

before I have to put ’em in the air – just to show the boy what’s UP!

Don’t speak – Shut Up!

Ask you how’s the weather’s up there

Uh-Unh! – that was a test, you just flunked!

Don’t make me have to dearly depart you…

Leave you broke-up…

Oschino and Emilio Sparks you…

You wanna play Casino – this is really the part where you – Blow up;

the bomb is in the seat of your car duke.

And yes he’s, like Pesci cause I’ll kill you with a pen,

in a bar!

Especially if you’re stealing from my friend

-ain’t no borrowing

That’s called ‘biting’…

Your arms too short to box – forget it!

-I see why you biting.

You must’ve took your cues from Tyson,

but don’t mess with Liky iight!

You’ll get a leaky eye.

I’ll have one eye closed, til you can’t use both, at the same time;

Your new name is ‘Winky’…right?!

I done floored ’em with a hit, like,

Winky Wright,

and got a $40 dollar tip, off,

Winky Wright.

Cause unlike all these other kids – I admit I got a day job…

Hardest man working in business…steady gettin’.

I’m steady pimpin’…

While ya’ll are steady bending over,

cause ya’ll Undercover Brothers – I don’t mean no Eddie Griffin.

‘Sha-boing-boing!’

While ya’ll are boy-toys,

this boy toys around town in something foreign – steady whippin’!

I pop throttles,

and if it’s NOT foreign, then I’m like Tyra;

I’m pickin’ America’s Top Model!

Or somethin’ from that GM series…

Cause once they hear Malik spittin’, then they’re like ‘Gee, M’s serious!’

Chics need a good man,

then I G ’em serious,

like ‘look ma – I’m straight from that GM series’!

And then they wanna know who my wife is,

I tell them that I’m married to life,

cause we all know what life is

And now I see they’re embarrassed…

Since I’m married to Life,

and I’m their father – guess they’re meeting the parents!

But once they meet me – it’s apparent…

That they all HotShots!

No way that they can take on my spot!

So who’s first on the bus?

Cause I teach these kids grammar like Hammer – yeah I stay on “Proper”!

But they ain’t in my circle of trust

You wanna know why?

Cause they all, some Gaylord Fockers!!

-And it’s…

No sick days off pa,

cause I’m so Ill;

everyday’s a sick day – now call doctors!

And tell ’em Lik writes, what’s prescribed,

as bringin’ pain like Meth,

I’m “movin’ on your left!’

-Why??

Cause I don’t wanna Be Right….”

 

Hope you learned something…

Click the image of the Cover to the mixtape below to download and hear this song.

THIS is what they think of your “Black History Month”!!!

You ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words?

Keiry sent me this picture like she randomly does sometimes because her sister had it sent to her from a friend who was just honestly shopping around their local PathMark. I wish this was one of those photo-shopped viral images designed to be texted around and laughed at (it can still be, and very well may be by now), but this is just truly one of those WTF moments captured in still life.

Last year, it was the NBC breakroom menu that was going around the internet, where the catering staff took it upon themselves to feel like they contributed to the legacy of the month by providing a special rundown of “Soul Food” and the Black choice for bottled water, Aquafina (a.k.a., the cheapest). 

It sparked controversy, as everything Black usually does because we are the most sensitive race on the Planet, and of course, outsiders struggled to wrap their heads around how this assumptive gesture could be taken offensively.

What it really comes down to is the question, is this what we are to the rest of the world?? Can we be narrowed down to a 1-note monolithic idea? Is our culture steeped primarily in singing, dancing and food that started out as the most unhealthy scraps that we turned into damn good-tasting delicacies??? Ironically, the same food that because we’ve been living off for decades, has caused us to develop diseases that pass generation-to-generation almost exclusively to us.

As a Black Man who has never been a fan of what I call “Slave-Food”, I can’t deny that this cuisine is indeed a testament to Black genius and our ability to make marvels out of morsels, or something from nothing, but I refuse to be defined by it when we’ve done soooo much else as a people. And If we’re speaking strictly within the realm of food, why not peanuts? Why not Red Velvet Cake? Foods that we undeniably have added to that are not stigmatized? There’s so many different kinds of “Black”. Then I must remember that excluding our African and Carribean counterparts, the history of the American Black is a very limited one…One that begins with slavery. So maybe this is our foundation. Scary isn’t it?

I understand why other races could be confused as to why something that seems like a good-natured effort to recognize the history of an ethnic group could be taken with such malice, but these implications speak volumes without saying much.

Next time the need is felt to put a sticker on something to celebrate Black History Month, how about a Traffic Light?? That‘ll be the day…

5 Days until we drop that New Aaliyah-inspired mixtape for V-Day!!

I’ve made you wait long enough.

It’s been a minute since I released any new “rappity rap” as my homegirl TDJ would say. I agree. Approximately, 4 months and counting.

And counting is exactly what we’re doing. All month long I’ve been counting down via your favorite social networking sites, the days before the release of Blue Valentine – The Aaliyah Mixtape. This time around, I’m bringing in the fellow members of my group, The Have-Knotz; Komp’L & Bobby. If you remember from my last tape, the 2 were featured heavily, so naturally this is a full effort from us as a group in preparation for our original music debut, coming this summer.

Inspired by the title of the Oscar-Buzz-worthy movie that just came out this winter, this project is a loosely conceptual one, surrounding the good bad and ugly of male-female relationships. And we figured that there’s not a more appropriate backdrop for these themes than the emotion-invoking sounds from the late Aaliyah‘s catalogue.

Not too many groups out there are getting topical, so we came to fill in the void. Plus, V-Day is one of the few holidays that I actually acknowledge. The timing is impeccable!

Speaking of timing, see us here in 5 days when the project drops and download it for free. Consider it a gift.

Now Blow!